Why #stoptheknot sucks

“Am I having a sense of humour failure?” I wonder, as I sit in front of my laptop, working myself into a state of righteous agitation over the viral video of the day, “Stop the Knot”.

In case you haven’t seen it already, you can watch it below:

If you can’t be bothered to watch it, or are sensibly avoiding watching it in order to avoid self-inflammation, I’ll briefly summarise.

In the opening video clip, South-African comedy duo Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues profess their hatred of the ‘topknot’, describing it as a ‘prebubescent samurai’. They then go around cutting off random unsuspecting people’s topknots, before running off as fast as possible.

Imagine how terrifying it would be to be eating lunch, and suddenly some random dude has run at you with scissors and is invading your personal space. Surely this is just barefaced assault?

After watching the video, I was annoyed, for reasons we’ll get to later, but I was also confused.

Why? Because the reason people take so badly to topknots is because they are the hipster’s hairstyle of choice. We associate them with guys who try way too hard to be edgy, without realising that by sporting such a hairstyle, they’ve merely consigned themselves into a large group of people who are actually the opposite of unique, by virtue of their shared desire to be seen as different.

Yet not once do Derick Watts and The Sunday Blues cite this as their reason for their intense hatred of the topknot. Why could this be? Well, it’s probably because they themselves are hipsters, sporting beards, backwards flat caps, stylised moustaches, long hair and plugs (stretched piercings worn in the ear) between them.

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What I want to know is this: why do they think it’s ok to rock a hipster moustache but not a hipster topknot? Are one group of greasy, gelled follicles superior to another because of their placement in relation to the sun?

Hypocrisy aside, there is a far bigger problem than the dual standards in the video. Crucially, while twitter and Facebook are preoccupied by lolling at this totally banter video, the fact that someone has just altered another person’s image simply because they don’t like it get’s ignored.

I hate Derick Watt’s plugs. I don’t personally understand why people stretch their ears. To me it is unsightly and unhygienic. But am I going to go up to him and yank out the ear stretcher before running off with it giggling? No I am not. And nor is any rational and sensible human being. We may not like how others express their individuality, but the right to have one’s own image, even at the cost of irritating others, is fundamental to a happy and functional society.

You don’t like my tattoo? Fine. But don’t force me to remove it.

You don’t like my burka? Fine. But don’t rip it off me.

You don’t like my topknot? Fine. But don’t cut it off, because freedom of choice and individuality is essential, even if it’s douchey collective hipster topknot individuality.

The WORST press releases ever “Monday the 5th of January is the BIGGEST day of the year for affairs!” Yay?

Note: this page has been updated. When first published, the ‘sales are a good alibi for cheating’ press release hadn’t come through. Upon receipt, Emily Z Davis felt it was too classic to be ignored, and added it later

So today I received these press releases from Illicit Encounters, who claim to be the UK’s leading married dating website (who knew that existed? Am I being naive here?!).

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Anyway, they made me laugh, because they’re like a parody of so many of the classic press releases us journos receive every day, in that they are just totally desperate to promote a product at the expense of all morals and sense. I mean, who else turns the ‘most adulterous day of the year’ into a celebration? Who advertises the festive sales as ‘the perfect cover for meeting a new lover’?!

You really have to read them to see how full of crap they are, so I’ve published the releases one after the other in all their repugnant glory for you here.

“Sales Shopping Is Proving Perfect Cover For Meeting A New Lover”

A new survey conducted by the UK’s leading extra marital affairs website IllicitEncounters.com has found that sales shopping is being used as the perfect excuse to cover up meeting with a new fling.

Over 65% of the female members questioned in the survey said they were planning to slip-off to do some sales shopping as an excuses to get away from home, and spend some quality time with their secret squeeze.

It seems it’s not only women who are taking advantage of this as it appears that sales shopping makes the perfect opportunity to get some time away, with the survey revealing that 58% of men plan to use the sales as cover for meeting their mistress.

This year’s sales are expected to be the busiest shopping days of the year and high streets and shopping centers make the perfect location for a first secret date. There are countless coffee shops and bars to meet your new lover and the crowds make the perfect cover for secret liaisons.

Illicit Encounters spokesperson Mike Taylor commented: “Sale shopping looks like it could be the perfect alibi for meeting with your secret tryst, it is a fantastically convenient excuse for some time apart from your partner. The need for this break from your partner is heightened during the stress of the Christmas period, which culminates in the New Year as January 5th has become widely regarded as the busiest day for people to start looking for an affair.”

The site has seen a huge uplift in new members joining over the festive period after being featured in lots of magazines in the run up to December and January. The site has also seen a boost in its female members after releasing a 2015 calendar of affair-seeking male members of the site in various states of undress.

The calendar is available to view / buy at http://www.calandarcheats.com

“Monday the 5th of January is the BIGGEST day of the year for affairs!”

Following on from news that Friday the 2nd of January is dubbed ‘Divorce Day’ by the legal community, the UK’s leading married dating website, IllicitEncounters.com, has revealed that Monday 5th January, is the most adulterous day of the year.

When most of the British public goes back to work after a busy and stressful Christmas it makes for the most likely time that UK married couples would embark on an affair.

Statistics show that January is the time most married people either think about embarking on an affair – or splitting from their partner completely, making it Britain’s bleakest month of the year for marriages.

This follows research conducted that shows that 1-3 married people think they may have married the wrong person or for the wrong reason.

Christmas and New Year is a week of family lockdown when there is no excuse for avoiding family time this leads to people seeking extra-marital relationships, which rises significantly after the majority of the British public go back to work.

Spokesperson for IllicitEncounters.com Mike Taylor explains: “Christmas and New Year are times when couples spend an intense period of time with each other and their families. This can be quite claustrophobic and sometimes leads to a ‘cabin fever’ situation where both parties feel irritated with each other and underlying problems are exasperated. The 5th of January is typically one of the first days back to work and back to freedom and spouses take this opportunity to explore all the things they couldn’t under the watchful eye of their partner.”

IllicitEncounters.com sees on average a 30 per cent higher levels of activity during the winter months compared with the rest of the year, and this year to attract more female members Illicit Encounters has even released a 2015 calendar to showcase some of its eligible non-bachelors.

Based on previous years, IllicitEncounters.com is expected to see a sharp rise in the number of members joining the site. It is expected that there will be over One Million active UK members, approximately six per cent of the UK’s married population registered on the website by the end of winter.

This year the surge started even earlier with the pressure being too much for some couples, even by Boxing Day as Illicit Encounters reported it’s highest ever boxing day activity on the site showing it doesn’t take long during the festive period for the cracks to appear.

Hair evolution

From long locks to chic crop, via pudding bowl and blonde, let me talk you through my hair journey

Oh, my hair, my hair. Where do I begin.

Well, actually, in Thailand.

Long ago, in a Thai village far away, a younger version of myself with beautifully silky long hair was staying in an orphanage. I’d decided to pack up my things and go and teach English to children who had lost everything in the tsunami.

Whilst there, I got two major things:

  1. The most eye-opening couple of months of my life.
  2. Head lice.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Grab some louse killer, a nit comb, and you’re good to go.

But hold on. Remember we were in the middle of nowhere. And there were no shops. Let alone a pharmacy.

The solution? Well, as the coordinator of the children’s home explained to me in pigeon English: chop, chop.

The kids gathered around me. So excited were they to learn I would soon have the same hair as them (in Thailand, all girls have to have bobs for school), they squealed and hugged one another.

“You, me, same same!” They chanted.

Well, when a large group of children who have nothing want you to cut off some hair, what can you do?

I acquiesced. Soon, my hair was lying in clumps around me. 5 minutes later, I looked like this:

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Well, what do you do when you get back to the UK and realise the pudding bowl look went out 30 years ago?

Blonde. Oh yes. You go blonde. Everything looks better blonde. Doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, some snooty hairdresser in Wimbledon told me my hair was “simply too dark” to ever be properly peroxide.

My dreams of being Debbie Harry for a year while my hair returned to normal length slipped through my fingers like sand.

And then I thought, you know what, these so-called professionals are just trampling my buzz.

They’ve clearly just got it in for me.

If they won’t let me unleash my inner blonde, I’ll just have to take matters into my own hands.

Several L’Oreal boxes of home dye later, I was transformed.

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Now for a while, I was happy.

However that happiness quickly became a distant memory when I realised I was going to have to dye my hair fortnightly to keep up with my comparatively black regrowth.

And then, after about 10 home dyes, my hair went dry, like straw, ew.

And then it fell out.

And then I wept. It didn’t help that a close friend chose to take me to the side and have a quiet word about how I looked “a bit Alistair Darling”.

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So, I swallowed my pride and admitted perhaps the Wimbledon salon didn’t hate me. Perhaps, all along, they’d been looking out for my best interests.

I shuffled back to the stylist and told her to fix it.

She told me she’d never seen hair so damaged.

I told her it was her fault for not doing it the way I asked in the first place. If they’d only blooming well listened, I wouldn’t have had to go my own way. I could have been blondified in a safe and competent environment and none of this would have ever happened.

She told me, periodically, that going peroxide when you are as brunette as me never works, professional assistance or none.

We agreed to disagree.

Apparently, the only thing to do was for me to go back to my original colour using semi permanent dye. By now it had been a few months, and my hair was shoulder length. I told the stylist to give it her best shot.

I don’t know whether she’d intentionally misremembered my original DARK brown colour (though I don’t see how she could have since it was the colour that caused the debate), or what. Maybe it was my comeuppance,  I don’t know.

She dyed my hair a mousy brown colour that quickly faded to field rat. I was sold some highly extortionate conditioner that did, well, nothing.

I was going to give up.

And then, like a shining guardian angel of barnets, along came Wayne.

Wayne set up Shape Hair in Teddington earlier this year, after he and his family moved here from New Zealand. The salon has been attracting great local reviews ever since.

When Wayne told me he thought he could fix my hair, I assured him he should probably take a look at it before making such a pledge.

“I think” I announced gravely, “It’s unsalvageable.”

And maybe it was. But when I came by the salon, Wayne was too polite to say. He merely commented on the “poor condition” delicately, before getting to the root (sorry), of the problem.

“It’s just got no style. It’s got no shape. It’s just… hanging there. It’s been badly done.”

At this point, I was loving the fact he wasn’t blaming me.

With a flourish, he presented me his look book and we decided on a bold new look. Chop, chop.

But this, time, I wasn’t going to look like disheveled stray dog. I was going to have a stylish crop so my hair could rejuvenate (the dead locks had to go), and return to my natural colour.

Although Wayne did talk me through what he was doing, I don’t actually know how he did it.

What I mean by this is that though I understood the technicalities, how he managed to make my barnet look THIS much better is beyond me. He also matched my hair exactly to it’s original colour, auburn streaks and all, which was impressive.

And the best bit? While I doubted it would look so sleek when it hadn’t been blow dried by a professional, I was wrong.

“You can’t be getting a blow dry every time you need to look good. My cuts are designed to look good even without professional styling” Wayne explained.

Fat chance, I thought, but, as I would later discover, my hair would end up looking good even if I let it dry naturally.

“I just have to ask you one more thing” I ventured before leaving. “Is it true that my natural colour is too dark to have gone peroxide blonde?”

“No” replied Wayne. “You just need the right hairdresser.”

I think I’ve found him.

Review: The Dance of Love, Angela Young

In this month’s Richmond Magazine Bookshelf, I review The Dance of Love by Angela Young

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they tell you. Me, I do it all the time.

And not always to flattering effect. Everything about the cover of The Dance of Love, the latest novel from Richmond’s Angela Young, made me want to avoid it: the tea-stained green background; the brown shoe that looked like clip art; the fact that it appeared to have been created using the 1999 version of Microsoft Word. Even the title deterred me, hinting at endless balls and marriages made over dinner. Everything that I loathe about Jane Austen.

How wrong can you be? For what begins by sailing too close to the winds of country homes, ponies and financially incentivised romance quickly changes tack, and we are presented with something far more complex, real and raw.

Natalie Edwardes, daughter of tea trader Sir Thomas, is a creative, exuberant young woman who wears her heart on her sleeve – much to the distaste of her neighbour, the imperious Lady Bridewell, who would prefer her to place it closer to her purse.

For Lady Bridewell, a good marriage is based on accounts. Yet this savvy matriarch’s family estate has fallen into disrepair, and despite her prestigious bloodline, the family lack the funds to bolster their titles and lands.

Resourcefully, Lady B persuades wealthy Sir Thomas to arrange the marriage of Natalie to her son Andsrie, as the girl’s dowry more than makes up for what she lacks in status.

Unaware of this, Natalie falls madly in love with Lieutenant Haffie (also an incredibly talented artist – *swoon*) during her first London season. Andsrie’s chances are nil. Only when Haffie mysteriously disappears does Natalie settle for his hapless rival, aware that he is her only hope of mending her broken heart. A son is born, and for a while, Natalie is whole again. 

Years later, however, her contentment is threatened by her old obsession, as Haffie unexpectedly returns to her life, with his wife, Edwina, in tow.

It takes the sinking of the Titanic and the outbreak of WWI for Natalie to realise where her loyalties truly lie. And we too are forced to confront the nature of our relationships, as we follow Natalie warily down her introspective path.

Bold, truthful and emotionally engaging, this book refuses to eschew plot complexities in the interests of neat, tidy endings or a spurious coherence. It is a novel that fully embraces what it is to be a wife, mother and, fundamentally, a human being vulnerable to flitting indecision and disharmony of the soul.

The Dance of Love, by Angela Young, published by Buried River Press (£8.99), is available from the Barnes, Sheen and Kew Bookshops

Compulsive Reading

I’m cover girl for Compulsive Reading this month, a fabulous magazine published by OCD UK. What an honour!

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Laugh like no one’s watching

Laugh like no one’s watching

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Times of India wildly misrepresent OCD

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I was extremely concerned to see The Times of India printing an article that misrepresents OCD in such a dangerous way.

Today, they reported that police have decided to put Sneha Swakhyar Samal, accused of a triple murder, to a psychological test, claiming his behaviour was ‘like that of a psychopath’.

Asking ‘an expert’ who professes to be a psychiatrist for comment, they published this:

‘Psychiatrists said the behaviour, observed by police in Samal, is that of an insane person. “There are people, who are suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension and obsessions. We learnt Samal nurtured a grudge against the doctor just because he prescribed costly tests for his daughter’s treatment. Such type of behaviour is expected from insane people,” said psychiatrist Surjeet Sahoo.’

Oh boy. Where to begin. Let’s start with talking about intrusive thoughts. Although many people are unaware of this, and believe OCD would only cause someone to obsessively tidy up or straighten things, intrusive thoughts form a major part of OCD for many people.

They are unwanted ideas, images and thoughts that pop into the mind of a sufferer and cause them huge anxiety. Very often, they are about harming other people. Someone with OCD may be plagued with thoughts of stabbing someone, or fears that they are a paedophile. An intrusive thought is not a grudge, as the psychiatrist here insinuates.

To be clear: intrusive thoughts are symptomatic of an overwhelming fear of doing something wrong. They would never lead someone to commit a crime. The anxiety at the idea of doing such a thing would cripple a sufferer in horror.

A person with OCD is characterised as being extremely anxious, and would be the last person to murder someone. Technically speaking, someone with OCD is basically at exactly opposite end of the spectrum to a psychopath. To see The Times of India linking the two is extremely worrying. Anyone who reads this article and does not have some concept of the nature of OCD will walk away with a completely inaccurate perception of the disorder.

Finally, someone who has OCD is not insane. Ok. They just aren’t. Having a mental illness does not equal insanity.

Please apologise and amend this article before any further damage is done Times of India.

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